Archive for the “Bible” Category

When life gets tough, people often turns to Romans 8 especially the last 10 verses or so which are so incredibly encouraging

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:28–39 ESV)

I have been confronted with the realization that I may be hearing what I want to hear when reading these verses. I want to hear that God will keep us AWAY from tribulation, distress persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. He will protect us from those things because he loves us. I hear and process God’s good purposes are the world’s purposes, good job, enough money to live (don’t want to be too greedy), good health, good friends, good church, good spiritual growth and live happily ever after.

After listening to John Piper’s sermon to BCS The Solid Logic of Heaven Holds and the Future Grace seminar he gave a couple of days later, I have found that my theology, my understanding has been upside down and wrong.

The danger of the wrongness is that when you go to Roman 8 and you go looking at these extraordinary promises and define them through the lens of worldly entitlement that you think you deserve, you are going to be sorely disappointed. You are going to think that God is letting you down. You think that God is not keeping his promises, he is not loving you. The wrongness will destroy your only hope which is Christ.

If you are anything like me, when I read Romans 8:28 I read: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” and then stop. We define good by our worldly standards. But there is another piece of the verse “for those who are called according to his purpose.” Which begs the question what is his purpose?

Paul answers that question in the next verse:
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
(Romans 8:29 ESV)

I know I am doing something really stupid in this post and that is playing theologian, just bear with me a little longer. There is one more question that needs to be asked is “how is He going to conform us to the image of His Son?” I think Paul answers that question in Romans 8 God is going to use tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, dangers, swords, death, life, angels, rules, powers to help shape us.

Here is what I am hearing from Piper and reading in other places in the bible, is that bad things are going to happen. I live in a third tier suburb of Minneapolis, persecution doesn’t happen not like what Paul talks about. But bad things do happen, death, health issues, job problems, marital problem etc etc. The enemy (the world, the flesh and the devil) has countless weapons at his disposal to destroy us. Paul is not promising, that God will protect and we will not ever experience these attacks or the war with the enemy.

I believe that Paul is saying that God will bring us through the war, the trials, the tests as conquerors. God will give us all that we need to do that. I think this parallels what Jesus said in his High Priestly prayer in John 17:11,15.

Paul is saying that as we starve to death God will give us all we need as we starve to death. Paul is saying that as we are being stabbed God will give us all we need. As we go to war against the enemy he will give us what we need and we will conquer

There is more to say about this…

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A couple of days ago I finished the book of Leviticus and I was struck by what was in chapter 26. After God laid out His law for the people of Israel he warned them what would happen if they disobeyed. The warnings were stern, the punishment severe:

““But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.”
(Leviticus 26:14–17 ESV)

Four more times in this short section of Leviticus God warns what will happen to us to Israel as their disobedience deepens (Leviticus 26:18-20; 21-22; 23-26; 27-33). Each time the punishment gets more severe. Sadly Israel didn’t listen. Sadly we don’t listen to the warnings God gives us either.

But… God gives them and us a way back home again. Back to Him

““But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.””
(Leviticus 26:40–45 ESV)

We are just like the Israelites of 3500 years ago. We let our sin and pride carry us away. While today we don’t get carried out of country to another land, we do lose our focus on God, which makes it seem we are very far away. The advise is the same as it ever was, come to God to confess and repent of our sin with a humble heart and then we can be be rejoined with our Heavenly Father.

What strikes me most about this, is as outraged as God is for the sin of Israel (and our sin), He gives a way back to Him.

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What would happen if you went up to one of the more profane entertainers and ardent atheist and gave them a bible. If you know the person hates everything you believe in. Do you think it would be a waste of time? Is it worth the effort? Or would you just go looking for someone easier to go talk to.

One day someone gave Magician and Atheist Penn Jillette a bible. This video has been floating around for a while, but it once again challenged me when I was asked if I was going to invite my parents and sister’s to our ELQ (which is like alpha). Hear his reaction from his own mouth and be challenged by his words.

Here is what he said:
“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, and not getting eternal life or whatever. And you think that it’s not really worth telling people this because it would be socially awkward. And atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize, just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize, how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that. I mean, If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it that that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you, and this is more important than that.”

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Today is the first day of a New Year. It is all shiny and new. It is a new beginning. How appropriate it is to start reading the bible from the beginning.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”
(Genesis 1:1-4 ESV)

God calls the light out of the darkness and so begins the shaping of the world. After the six days of creation the world was all shiny and new. It was pure uncorrupted and undamaged, kind of like the year seems to us as the calendar turns from December 31 to January 1.

As I read this morning the first three chapters of Genesis, I wanted to luxuriate myself in the Creation Story and the newly God created earth. I really struggled to start reading chapter 3 of Genesis. I wanted to read more about what it was like to live in Eden and to be able to walk in the garden with God, to live in the newness of the world.

I am always surprised how quickly the fall comes in the Bible. It seems that as soon as man was created we fell. First two chapters talking about God creating the world and mankind, the very next thing is our pride got better of us. It seems that paradise wasn’t enough for us.

The same will happen with our shiny New Year. Suffering, tragedy and sin will start invading and corrupting our new year, if it hasn’t already started happening.

If I ended here this would be a very depressing blog post…

Genesis is the beginning of the Bible, but not necessarily the beginning of the story. The story begins in eternity past with an all knowing, sovereign God knowing full well, what will happen when he created the earth, and created man in His image. This sovereign God knowing exactly what he is going to do.

The fall is not the ending of the story, but the beginning. The fall is one of the most important events of the Bible, but in some ways it is just the back story of what is to come both in the Bible and the world. The fall is the beginning point of a story of How God is going to save and redeem His people and His creation.

The world may seem like it is in chaos and completely out of control, but there is a God who is in perfect control of everything. This year as I read through the Bible I pray that I will get to know more of who God is (Exodus 34:6) and be assured by both the things he has done and the things (John 3:16*) he has promised to do (Micah 7:8-9*)

*There are numerous examples of who God is, what God has done, and what he has promised. I just chose the ones in my thoughts today.

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Anyone who has been in my “room” knows I have several verses up on my wall. Last night I read about Jeremiah 5:22 and this morning on my wall I saw Isaiah 41:10

“Do you not fear me? declares the LORD. Do you not tremble before me?” (Jeremiah 5:22 ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Fear and worry is one of those things that comes with depression and probably a consequence of the lifestyle I lived and most likely a consequence of life in general. Fear is certainly not a pleasant thing and the bible in general tells us very explicitly not to fear.

Doing a word search in the ESV for the words “Do not fear” it comes up with 37 hits in 35 verses.

Gen 35:17; Gen 50:19, 21; Ex 20:20; Num 14:9; Num 21:34; Deut 1:21; Deut 3:2; Deut 20:3; Deut 31:6, 8; Josh 8:1; Josh 10:8; Judg 6:23; Ruth 3:11; 1 Sam 23:17; 2 Sam 9:7; 2 Sam 13:28; 1 Kings 17:13; 2 Kings 17:34; Psa 55:19; Isa 7:4; Isa 8:12; Isa 57:11; Jer 42:11; Lam 3:57; Hos 10:3; Mal 3:5; Matt 1:20; Matt 10:28; Mark 5:36; Luke 8:50; Luke 12:4; 1 Pet 3:6; Rev 2:10

“Fear Not” comes up 33 more times.
Gen 15:1; Gen 21:17; Gen 26:24; Ex 14:13; 1 Chr 22:13; Isa 35:4; Isa 40:9; Isa 41:10, 13-14; Isa 43:1, 5; Isa 44:2, 8; Isa 51:7; Isa 54:4; Jer 30:10; Jer 46:27-28; Dan 10:12, Dan 19; Joel 2:21-22; Zeph 3:16; Hag 2:5; Zech 8:13, 15; Matt 10:31; Luke 2:10; Luke 12:7, 32; John 12:15; Rev 1:17

Stand Firm a dozen more times
Ex 14:13; 2 Chr 20:17; Psa 89:28; Isa 46:8; Dan 11:32; 1 Cor 16:13; 2 Cor 1:24; Gal 5:1; Eph 6:13; Phil 4:1; 2 Th 2:15; 1 Pet 5:12

Do not be anxious 8 times
Matt 6:25, 31, 34; Matt 10:19; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11, 22; Phil 4:6

It is interesting to me that close to a hundred times the Bible tells us not to fear about our lives. And yet most of us spend all our time fearing and worrying about all the things we are not suppose to fear. When we worry or fear we are not trusting God. Though there is ONE thing we are suppose to fear and that is God himself.

Fear the Lord 34 times
Ex 9:30; Deut 6:2, 24; Deut 10:12, 20; Deut 14:23; Deut 17:19; Deut 31:12-13; Josh 4:24; Josh 24:14; 1 Sam 12:14, 24; 2 Kings 17:25, 28, 34, 36, 39; Psa 15:4; Psa 22:23; Psa 27:1; Psa 33:8; Psa 34:9; Psa 115:11, 13; Psa 118:4; Psa 135:20; Prov 3:7; Prov 24:21; Jer 5:24; Jer 26:19; Hos 10:3; Amos 3:8; Jonah 1:9

Fear of the Lord 27 times
2 Chr 14:14; 2 Chr 17:10; 2 Chr 19:7, 9; Job 28:28; Psa 19:9; Psa 34:11; Psa 111:10; Prov 1:7, 29; Prov 2:5; Prov 8:13; Prov 9:10; Prov 10:27; Prov 14:26-27; Prov 15:16, 33; Prov 16:6; Prov 19:23; Prov 22:4; Prov 23:17; Isa 11:2-3; Isa 33:6; Acts 9:31; 2 Cor 5:11

In a simple search of the Bible it tells us to fear the Lord as many times as it says not to fear anything else. Maybe we need to take some time and fear and give reverence, honor and glory to the Lord instead of worrying and having fear for the world.

Quoting from the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words.
Fear of the Lord. This religious fear, or awe, is God’s answer to the ordinary fears that master human beings.
Such fear is reverence for God. We who fear God recognize him as the ultimate reality, and we respond to him. Fear of God is called the “beginning of knowledge” (Pr 1:7), meaning that taking God into account is the foundation of a disciplined and holy life (Pr 1:3; cf. Ge 20:11; Ps 36:1-4). To fear God means to reject every competing deity and to serve him only (Dt 6:13). Fear of the Lord is expressed by walking in all his ways, by loving him, and by serving him with all our heart and soul (Dt 10:12; Job 1:1; Ps 128:1).
While fear of God is closely linked with morality and with obedience to God’s commands, it is also freeing. To fear God means to recognize him as Creator and to know that his plans stand firm forever (Ps 33:8-11). God has a special concern for all who fear him (vv. 18-19; cf. Ps 31:19; 34:9). Thus those who fear God can say with the psalmist, “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you” (Ps 33:20-22).

Maybe it is time we realign our fears to focus on the one biblically correct fear. What tricks do you use to deal with your fears of the world and help you to realign them to focus on God?

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This last Sunday Pastor Craig preached a sermon called “From Death to Life“ (I am a little disappointed I have not seen any increase of traffic to my website because of his sermon). The text he was preaching from was 1 Peter 4:1-6. His main points was ”Arm yourself with the intention to suffer, understanding that it is inevitable. To do so is to make a decisive break with sin, imitating the thinking of Christ“.

He asked and answered several questions in this sermon such as:

What is the way of thinking we are to imitate Christ in regards to suffering?

  1. Christ accepted suffering as part of being in the flesh.
  2. Christ accepted suffering as the consequence of holiness.
  3. Christ accepted suffering as doing the will of God.

He asked another question which was very pragmatic. He asked ”Why does it have to work this way?“ Why do we as Christians have to suffer, why is suffering inevitable for Christians?

Paraphrasing Pastor Craig’s answer (even typing on my computer I am not fast enough to keep up with him), he said ”When holiness touches a fallen world there is a violent reaction, there is push back, there are sparks of friction.” They are polar opposites.

With that answer is it at all surprising when Holiness personified (Jesus) touched the world that people reacted the way they did? Jesus was hated by the world but He was never polluted or stained by it.

So again why do we suffer (stealing from my notes again)?

  • We suffer because we choose God’s will and we inherit suffering.
  • We suffer because human beings hate holiness unless we embrace holiness

If we have been called (Romans 8:30) and we have chosen to follow God’s will, we will be transformed from the depraved lawless idolaters (1 Peter 4:2) to being holy and blameless, conformed into the image of his son (Colossians 1:22; Romans 8:29). The metaphors that describe this process in the bible is anything but fluffy bunnies, comfort and ease.

God knitted us together in the womb to make us the way he wanted us (Psalm 139:13-14). He once again takes up His tools to reshape and transform us into a holy image of His Son. One of His tools of choice is our suffering. God orchestrates our suffering to transform us as the master potter uses a clay knife and potter’s wheel (Isaiah 64:8) or as a metal smith uses a a refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:2-3) or furnace and files to forge and shape metal. (See Proverbs 17:3; Isaiah 48:10; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Titus 2:14)

God uses suffering to purify us from the world. Unlike Jesus we do get polluted and stained by the world. God needs to scrape, file and burn off the sludge of our sin and worldliness. That process hurts. We were born of the world and have always lived within it. Now God is scraping the worldly and sinful things that we have come to depend upon to replace it with His holiness, grace and love.

As God continues to work on me I am beginning to understand why both Peter and Paul see their suffering as a gift and are able to rejoice in it.

Thank you Lord for letting me suffer through my depression and bringing me from death to life. I pray that you continue to teach us all how to trust you especially in our suffering.

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We talk often about the still soft voice of God. In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel, for the first time was addressed directly by God. God called Samuel three times and if it wasn’t for his teacher Eli’s discernment Samuel may not have answered (1 Samuel 3:1-10 ESV). The encounter with God was definitely not a meet and greet. God just promised to “do a thing to Israel that will make the ears of anyone who hears about it tingle”. On top of that God told Samuel that he is going to punish Eli’s (his teacher) family forever (1 Samuel 4:10-21 ESV).

I am not sure I could imagine what Samuel was feeling at this time. First Samuel just encountered the Almighty God. Second God declared in direct revelation that something profound was going to happen to Israel. Third, he is struggling with the fact that he needs to tell his teacher everything including the punishment of his family.

Eli, demanded and threaten to curse Samuel if he did not tell everything of his encounter of God. I could picture Samuel bracing himself for some sort of profound reaction of grief or anger or something as Samuel shared everything that God said (1 Samuel 3:11-18 ESV).

A teaching moment has come and Eli’s reaction was anything but predictable to me and I suspect Samuel was surprised and awed by it too. Eli said:

““It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.”” – (1 Samuel 3:18 ESV)

I have been thinking a lot about this story in the Bible and how it shows Eli’s trust in the sovereignty of God in a time of struggle. One of the struggle that I have is cyclical depression. Living with depression is a taste of Hell that I hope most will never encounter. When I sink into the bowels of depression, self-pity, hopelessness, anger and despair. I strike out towards God and everyone around me. I am angry and frustrated that though I believe in God, he allows me to suffer through these bouts of depression. I am angry because I know that he can cure the depression without effort. He can sanctify me. He can transform me in a second.

And yet God chooses not too. God chooses not to end suffering, mine and others. At first glance (and yes, second, third, fourth, three hundredth glance) that is a hard thing to swallow. Then you encounter texts like in 1 Samuel 3:18 where you see Eli is facing the disappointment in his sons who are dishonoring the priest and more importantly God and facing the inevitable death of not only his family but himself and yet has complete faith in the Lord.

Eli did not have the promises of the New Testament. He did not have the promise of Romans 8:28. Though he had a relationship with God which we will not have on this side of glory.

God will do what is good to Him. Thankfully what is good in His eyes is always good for us in His purposes.

I pray that we all are able to face our lives with the complete trust that Eli had in the Lord.

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There is a story in Matthew 8 of a centurion who comes to Jesus about his sick servant.

“When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.”But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
(Matthew 8:5-10 ESV)

I have been thinking about this story for several days now because of the faith the centurion has. He understood what authority Jesus carried. He had faith and trust in that authority.

We look at the world and we worry. The economy is close to a recession. People are losing their jobs. We are concerned with the new president ready to take office. We tend to look to our selves and our government to save us from our troubles.

Do we have that faith and trust in what God has promised us?

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

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I read a devotional Bible that I have read now for the past three years, it divides up the bible into daily readings of about 15 minutes a day and in that time I read, Old and New Testament, a psalm, and some of proverbs. I read it every morning first thing when I get up, just to be able to get my self into scripture every morning. I noticed some things today

In the Old Testament:

  • Day One of reading (Genesis 1-2)
    • God created the Earth, and creates the plants and the animals, and man and woman.
    • I am going to make an assumption here that the earth was perfect at this time.
    • Adam and Eve had direct fellowship with God (something we desire, but will not have on this side of glory).
  • Day Two of reading (Genesis 3-4)
    • The Serpents temptation of Adam and Eve
    • The fall of humanity to sin.
    • The curse

For the next 363 days I am going to read in the Old Testament the unfolding of God’s plan and preparation for His Son through the Law.

God created the world and gave man mastery over everything and the next thing you know we have lost it all, through the manipulations of the serpent and our own ambition to be God.

What amazes me is that God created the world and created man knowing full well that in a blink of an eye we were going to give everything up to try to become our own god. What pain the God of love must of felt when He lost His creation to sin.

How long was it between the finishing of the creation of the world, to the fall? A day, a week, a month, a year? (Is there a number?)

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From the day that Solomon was conceived he was destined for great things. Despite the sins of his father and mother, he was set up for success.

The Lord loved him (2 Samuel 12:24-25).

• Solomon had a front row seat to watch the consequences of his father’s sins. He learned first hand the consequences of David’s sin. For instance when Adonijah tried to set himself up as king (1 Kings 1:5-10). Why is this a good thing you ask? He found out quite quickly who his friends and enemies were. He also saw He had Nathan the Prophet, Zadok the priest and the Mighty Men of Israel behind him.

• Solomon asked for wisdom, discernment between good and evil. The Lord was pleased with Solomon. (1 Kings 3:9). The Lord gave solomon a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you On top of that the Lord gave Solomon riches, and honor and a promise of long life if he follows HIM(1 Kings 3:12-14).

• David did as much prep work as possible to help by forging relationships and gathering materials to help Solomon build the temple.

• The Lord once again appears to Solomon reminding him to walk before the Lord, that he will be blessed (1Kings 9:4-5)

For 20+ years Solomon was honoring God and then he stopped…

What is interesting to me is how Solomon’s had it all and then gave it up.

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